Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"There's another pretty girl at the dance, and this one's not pregnant.": Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip


I thought it was great when Aaron Sorkin said he was going to turn this show into a romantic comedy to a bunch of reporters (in the same meeting, he bashed bloggers, which, I guess, means that I should join the blog blackout on the show, but I just can't bring myself to). Sorkin has always written romantic comedy-style banter well, and when his male leads pursue the women in their lives quixotically, it's oft-well done. Sorkin's script for The American President is like the perfect synthesis of his major concerns (I'm not as wild about the finished product, but the script. . .oh the script), and that's a pretty great blend of his romantic workplace ideals and his straight-out romantic ideals. So I thought that Studio 60 could work as a romantic comedy.

What no one told me was that it was going to be a CREEPY romantic comedy. The opening montage (featuring Bradley Whitford's Danny calling Amanda Peet's Jordan over and over and over and over while she was on vacation) made Danny look rather unstable -- sure he's a workaholic, but he also has nascent stalker-like tendencies. Sorkin has done the "guy who just won't take no for an answer but is sort of charming doing so" plot point before, but something about the whole thing is off here. Whitford and Peet don't have a lot of chemistry, and that seems to throw things.

But Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson (as Matt and Harriet) have even LESS chemistry. I know that we're supposed to buy in to the idea that this is a love that was one of the great showbiz loves of our time, but it just doesn't play. Perry and Paulson -- good actors both -- just have too brittle of a chemistry to be plausible in this context. And these are the two relationships the show's going to be rebuilt around?

Fortunately, Sorkin has an ace up his sleeve. Nate Corddry and Lucy Davis are great fun as Tom and Lucy, one of the show's stars and one of the show's writers respectively. Their tentative courtship made for the best moments of tonight's episode.

Unfortunately, most everything else rang false, from the relationships outlined above to Jordan's hatred of reality TV (not ALL reality TV is bad -- just most of it, but, then, most of TV period is bad). The FCC plot continued to be an irritant (there's no way any of this would happen like it is), right down to the pointless "we're talking about what we're talking about without talking about it" exchange between Steven Weber and Ed Asner about the Arts and Leisure section.

I'm one of those that thinks Studio 60 is getting slightly better -- I thought the Christmas episode was a real highpoint for the show. But I think focusing on the romantic comedy aspect is a lost cause if the two pairings that were the focus of tonight's episode continue to be the focus. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford have a tremendous chemistry that's almost never exploited, and their relations with the other cast members AS EMPLOYERS are often interesting. Why not take a page from the Newsradio playbook and do a show about how it's tough to be the boss?

Might be worth a shot.

(Honestly, I wouldn't offer all of this advice, but there's every chance Aaron Sorkin is reading this right now, even as I type it. Hey. Gotta take your shots when you can!)

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